By the Horns by Julia Stone (Nettwerk Records, 2012. 38 minutes)

Julia Stone (b. 1984) is an Australian singer and songwriter. She is most known for the work with her brother in the band Angus & Julia Stone, which began in 2006. By The Horns marks her second solo record.

Airy and Light = Good or Bad?

Julia Stone’s voice airily permeates her newest solo album By the Horns, with a light and easy quality which is hard to ignore. But, I wish I could ignore it. Her voice grates on me, I think. It’s frankly hard for me to tell, as I love the music, the melodies, the mixing, and everything else on the album. The question has become for me, can I take Julia Stone one her own without the more mellow voice of her old counterpart, Angus Stone?

A National Influence

Steeped in the influence of The National, Julia Stone’s newest album By the Horns is even produced by Thomas Bartlett and has a guest appearance from drummer Bryan Devendorf, both from The National.  In a cover of The National’s “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, Stone sings the all-too-familiar lyrics.

“Lay my head on the hood of your car, I take it too far”

By The Horns

The title track, “By The Horns” shows duality in the album. Strewn with mellow tones from a Rhodes, strings providing a simple texture in the background, and an easy groove from the drums, the song sounds beautiful. Then you add Miss Stone’s voice and you’re forced to listen to emotional lyrics. Her voice is so aggressive and nasal, yet light and easy. I hate to admit it, but it works.

“I believe in love / No, darling, you can’t take that away from me”

It’s All Okay

The final track of note is “It’s All Okay”. The track to me suggests that Julia Stone’s solo career may in fact be all okay. A simple piano riff starts the song, while a drum beat creates a toe tapping atmosphere. Guitars swoon in the background in semi-Explosions-in-the-Sky style. And the lyrics; they’re fantastic.

“The story is different now the records are playing in the living room / And you might say you’re wounded, and I might say I’m hurt / But, we knew the difference then between the fire and the earth / And we may say we’re broken, we may say we’re weak / But, we knew before we started oh the secrets we would keep”

So, the more time I spend with By the Horns, the more I like it. I think Julia Stone may have a promising solo career ahead of her, and I urge you to try out By the Horns. You may not like it at first, maybe like me due to the quality of her voice, but let it marinate, and the album may grow on you.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

Posted by: Andrew Jacobson

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